This item appears in part 1 of our 75th Anniversary Newsletter.

Friday 25th March 2022 marked 75 years since the signing of the Designation Order by Lewis Silkin MP, Minister for Town & Country Planning in the Attlee government.

Harlow Civic Society organised a walk to mark the occasion, on what turned out to be a beautiful spring day. Warm sunshine, daffodils, primroses and cherry blossom greeted 30 or so walkers who assembled outside Moot House at The Stow that afternoon. Moot House was chosen as a starting point for a number of reasons. Firstly, in 1947 the house was probably the only habitation in the rural landscape here. It had been built in 1860 by the Arkwright family as the vicarage for St Mary at Latton church and now stood empty. The church would have been visible from the house, but now The Stow shopping area has taken away that view. Secondly, the vacant building soon became the de facto town hall in the early days of the New Town, with Epping and later Harlow Councils holding meetings there. It also became the cultural centre when Netteswell & Mark Hall Community Association took over the building for the benefit of new town residents. Thirdly, on the forecourt of Moot House stands ‘Chiron’ the first of the Town’s sculpture collection, commissioned to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953.

Moving off at about 2.00pm we admired the terrace of houses at Orchard Croft as we walked across the green to Latton Street. Before the arrival of the new town this was a public road that ran approximately south – north from Potter Street, a small village on the A11 London – Norwich road, to Netteswell village. Frederick Gibberd, who had been appointed Master Planner for Harlow, saw that this road and others of a similar nature would make ideal cycling and pedestrian routes, as a new road network would be required for vehicular traffic.

And so our group continued along Latton Street, passing the housing areas of Cooks Spinney & Blackbush Spring until we arrived at Momples Road. Here we stopped to admire the outstanding architecture of Ladyshot, so bold! It was designed by F R S Yorke, one of many young architects appointed to design areas of our town.

Continuing south along Latton Street we reached the point where Todd Brook flows west beneath our route. The brook continues west, right across the town and is the main artery to the east – west green wedge, a main feature of Gibberd’s plan. Whilst straddling Todd Brook we took the opportunity to admire Pennymead Tower and the curving block of maisonettes, Quarry Spring. The view from these buildings across the meadows is to be envied. Frank Brown, who had lived in the tower told us of his early years in Harlow, residing in Pennymead Tower. Heavenly, probably sums it up!

Proceeding southwards we soon reached Puffers Green with the instantly recognisable Clock Tower house of 1863. It is currently shrouded in scaffolding while routine maintenance is carried out on this charming landmark. Listed grade 2, it was built by the Arkwrights, who were the major landowners here until the arrival of the New Town. Onwards, via New Town underpasses beneath Second Avenue and the A414 and then through Pytt Field, unremarkable, except for some well-designed 1960s bungalows. We then headed north, along through Gardiners, formerly the A11, and bordering Church Langley, the 1990s addition to our town. Diving through yet another underpass, beneath Church Langley Way, we soon returned to the old A11 and reached Kao Park.

Kao Park is part of Harlow’s rejuvenated, science- based industrial zone. The site, once occupied by STL (Standard Telephone Laboratories), is the location where Sir Charles Kao and his team developed fibre optic cables, so important to the development of the internet. Now the site is occupied by long term, Harlow – based companies such as Raytheon, Arrow Electronics and Pearsons. It is also home to Kao Data, a computing centre said to be the most powerful in the UK. Two more such facilities are in the planning and construction phases on adjacent sites. A sure sign of industrial faith in the future for Harlow. Gazing at a building full of computers is probably not the most uplifting of experiences, but it is part of the future for our town.

We moved on, less swiftly now, northwards along London Road to Newhall, the ongoing private development in Harlow, turning into Maypole Street to admire the ‘black houses’. These were designed by the Alison Brookes architectural practice and were shortlisted for the prestigious Stirling Prize for Architecture in 2013. Clearly an effort is being made to produce an attractive townscape in Newhall.

We then returned to the commercial/science district called Harlow Innovation Park to see one of the Town’s latest sculptures outside new office buildings that are available to let. Twofold by Nick Hornby is an impressive steel sculpture that can be viewed from various angles and was much admired by our group.

The penultimate leg of our walk was along the A414 to Felmongers in Mark Hall South. It is typical of the early New Town, with a good variety of accommodation and green spaces. We then crossed Momples Road and walked past Solo Flight, surely one of the Town’s favourite sculptures. The juxtaposition of the sculpture and the ancient church of St Mary at Latton on the other side of First Avenue is one the joys of the townscape. 

Back at last to The Stow, the sun still shining, weary legs carried us through the pedestrianised shopping centre, pausing only to polish the bronze sculpture Not in Anger.  We returned to Moot House having travelled through 75 years of Harlow New Town in a couple of hours. My thanks to all who kept me company, especially those of you whose recollections of life in Harlow added greatly to the event.

Another walk will take place on Saturday 18th June, starting at 10.30. We will walk to the Town Park and back, a distance of about 3 miles. I hope that you will be able to join me then. Details to follow.

Route of our 75th anniversary walk, 6.5 km

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